Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley talk with Erika Barber about her experience with losing a sibling. Barber enjoyed life with her sister for 15 years, but after her sister committed suicide, Barber found herself lost. It’s been a lifelong exploration to define who she is without her sister’s physical presence. She wrote Letters from a Friend: A Sibling’s Guide for Coping and Grief to help others in similar situations, but also to help herself work through the unique challenges of suddenly being without a sibling.
Barber’s sister was five years older than her and served in the role of “big sister” for most of Barber’s formative years. Figuring out what her sister’s death meant for Barber’s role within her family was challenging. “She was my role model, my surrogate parent, and so her loss was devastating to me,” Barber says. She had to figure out a lot of things on her own after her sister passed, as well as handle the grieving process of her parents.
Growing Up Fast
Barber moved into the child specialist field, working with a number of children who had experienced a loss. Barber’s book is more of a workbook than a traditional book, and it’s brimming with activities for children to do during their grieving process. Snippets of Barber’s story is shared throughout the workbook, since knowing somebody else “gets it” is so affirming for children dealing with a loss.
Barber remembers how school staff and teachers weren’t sure how to treat her after her sister’s loss. It’s something she’s tried to address as a professional over the years, but notes it’s still something that needs a lot of work. While her workbook offers many tips for addressing sibling grief as a child, it can actually be used by a griever of any age.